Since 2003 Cricket South Africa (CSA) has lived with Kolpak cricketers even if they were not available for the Proteas, but that is all about to change. The recent migration of South African cricketers to certain English counties as Kolpak cricketers has resulted in CSA taking a harder stance on the matter. The loss of current Proteas cricketers Rilee Rossouw and Kyle Abbott was the last straw for CSA, especially the manner in which it was done.
There are nine Kolpak cricketers that are currently contracted to the six franchises and play in the domestic competitions. It looks like CSA will in future limit the Kolpak cricketers to only one per franchise, but the important aspect is that they will need to remunerate the Kolpak cricketers out of their own funds.
The franchise product is not commercially viable and is financed by CSA. This includes the franchise cricketers who are paid out of the so-called “Players’ Pool”. The franchises will not be able to generate the finances to remunerate the Kolpak cricketers and they will disappear from South African cricket.
Once again this policy will further weaken an already very poor domestic competition and make it difficult for the next generation of South African cricketer to compete internationally. It is a common cricketing theory that the gap between domestic cricket and the international game must be as small as possible to ensure the sustainability of that country’s international team. This cricket theory does not form part of CSA’s agenda or concern.
If CSA think squeezing the Kolpak cricketer out of domestic cricket will ensure that South African cricketers will no longer look to sign Kolpak agreements they are wrong. The financial value and stability of a county contract will always take preference over being a peripheral international or franchise cricketer in South Africa.
The market forces are against CSA, like they are against the South African Rugby Union. The Kolpak situation needs to be managed in the interests of South African cricket and not legislated against. CSA has an opportunity to use the quality, experience and exposure of the Kolpak cricketer to assist developing the next generation of future internationals. This will ensure the sustainability of the Proteas and South African cricket.
The Kolpak cricketer is not the problem for CSA, but the very narrow domestic system which must eventually have a negative effect on future Proteas teams. The six-team franchise system is too narrow to accommodate developing Proteas, globalisation, transformation and opportunity. It needs to be broadened for South African cricket to be sustainable in the years to come.